Monday, November 20, 2006

Is It Time to Consider an Alternative to Lambeth?

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, thinks we may need a global gathering that is more representative of Anglicanism than the Lambeth Conference. His complete presentation at Trinity Theological College in Melbourne, Australia can be found here. A summary of his comments can be found here.

There is much worth noting in his lengthy address. I want to pull out just a couple of quotes for consideration.

First, regarding Lambeth Resolution 1.10:

...I am also very disappointed at the way inordinate attention is paid to some Lambeth Resolutions and not to others.

We hear so much about 1.10 on human sexuality. But we rarely hear of 2.2 which refers to the Lambeth Conference as a 'significant consultative body' - underlining that its resolutions are not binding. Nor is 5.13, which reaffirmed resolution 72 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference on Episcopal Responsibilities and Diocesan Borders, given anything like the status of 1.10. And we must not forget that resolution 5.1, with its particularly strong language condemning homosexual practice, was actually defeated. So we should think twice before attempting to reinsert such language into the debate...
Resolution 72 of 1988, reaffirmed in 1998, is as follows:

Epsicopal Responsibilities and Diocesan Boundaries

This Conference:

1. reaffirms its unity in the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries; and in light of the above

2. affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.

3. urges all political and community leaders to seize every opportunity to work together to bring about a just and peaceful solution.

With the number of issues that could threaten our unity it seems fair that we should speak of our mutual respect for one another, and the positions we hold, that serves as a sign of our unity.
Returning to Archbishop Ndungane's statement, let me offer one more rather lengthy quote, regarding the lack of full representation at Lambeth:

...God is at work, through his Spirit, in all the baptised. As St Paul reminded the Corinthians, every member of the body of Christ is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). We best pursue that common good, when we pursue it all together.

The whole debate since the election of Bishop Gene Robinson, has been far too much driven by Bishops, and, what is worse, particularly by Archbishops!

It does not help when we issue statements like that from Kigali, which claim to be associated with Provinces which have had no opportunity to share and debate them across all orders.

If we want to pursue a truly Anglican solution to our current predicament, we cannot sideline laity, and parish clergy, as we are currently doing.

Now I am going to make a very radical proposal - which I can freely do, as I shall be retiring on January 31, 2008!

If I were in the shoes of the Archbishop of Canterbury - and I thank the Lord almost daily that I am not! - if I were in Rowan Williams' shoes, I would say that what we most need now is not yet another gathering of Bishops, in the form of the Lambeth Conference.

We have a far greater need for a coming together of a much larger, and much more representative, gathering of Anglicans from around the world.

I do not mean we need another Anglican Consultative Council. The ACC is good, and plays an important role within our structures. But it is also constrained by the procedures and agendas with which we have saddled it.

I would rather see a much larger gathering, with a better balance between Bishops, Clergy and Laity; in which participants can freely speak their own minds. I would like to see a very flexible and open agenda, that concentrates on informal encounter and the sharing of faith. We need space to get to know one another, our contexts, our cultures, our challenges. We need to listen to one another and our faith journeys, and recognise the marks of Christ in one another.

Perhaps if all of us had a better understanding of the lives of Christians in other provinces, we would not have come to the situation we now face.

If we had a large Anglican gathering, brothers and sisters of Christ in all our diversity would be able explore together the questions of how we understand ourselves as Anglicans, and how God want to leads us forward in our common life. We must find such ways to together listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. As a representative microcosm of our Global Family, we could explore how it is we should live together, and whether a Covenant - and if so, what form of Covenant - would best enhance our shared life and calling.

Whatever preparatory work the Covenant Design Group is able to do before the middle of 2008 must be offered for the consideration of the full breadth of the Anglican Family. It is far too important to be left just to Bishops, even meeting in the breadth of the Lambeth Conference, let alone Archbishops!

And then, after all this had been discussed and debated, I would ask the Design Group to pull the conclusions together, and to present them to a special meeting of the ACC, as the most fully representative of all of our Instruments of Unity. If we are to take the radical step of pursuing a Covenant, I would like this process to be owned and driven by the ACC. And then, of course, any draft will have to be adopted under the due processes within each Province - which again returns it to the full debate of Synods of all orders meeting together.

Let us not forget this.

The task of the Church is not self-preservation. If that were the case, well then, let the hierarchy get on with debating their narrow concerns, and good luck to them!

The task of the Church is to build up God's people for God's mission and ministry within God's world. We desire to be a Church in which abundant, God-given, Christ-shaped, life can flourish, and this life can be shared with the world for the building of God's kingdom, and for his glory.

And the pursuit of such a way of being Church is a task of the whole Church together...
The Archbishop is suggesting that what we need now is not yet another gathering of bishops, but a gathering in which all four orders of ministry are represented and given voice. Among other things, such a truly representative gathering might put an end to Archbishops claiming to speak for all Anglicans in their Province, when they do not, and diocesan bishops from claiming they represent all the perspectives within their diocese, when they do not.

There's been talk of such a gathering for some time. I've seen no concrete plans. Organizing such an event would be a huge and costly job. For this to happen, someone needs to spearhead it. And, since Archbishop Ndungane is the latest voice to advocate for such a gathering, I nominate him as chair of such an effort.


No comments:

Post a Comment